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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2011 Nov-Dec;84(6):583-94. doi: 10.1086/662680. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

Exposure to elevated temperature and Pco(2) reduces respiration rate and energy status in the periwinkle Littorina littorea.

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Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK.


In the future, marine organisms will face the challenge of coping with multiple environmental changes associated with increased levels of atmospheric Pco(2), such as ocean warming and acidification. To predict how organisms may or may not meet these challenges, an in-depth understanding of the physiological and biochemical mechanisms underpinning organismal responses to climate change is needed. Here, we investigate the effects of elevated Pco(2) and temperature on the whole-organism and cellular physiology of the periwinkle Littorina littorea. Metabolic rates (measured as respiration rates), adenylate energy nucleotide concentrations and indexes, and end-product metabolite concentrations were measured. Compared with values for control conditions, snails decreased their respiration rate by 31% in response to elevated Pco(2) and by 15% in response to a combination of increased Pco(2) and temperature. Decreased respiration rates were associated with metabolic reduction and an increase in end-product metabolites in acidified treatments, indicating an increased reliance on anaerobic metabolism. There was also an interactive effect of elevated Pco(2) and temperature on total adenylate nucleotides, which was apparently compensated for by the maintenance of adenylate energy charge via AMP deaminase activity. Our findings suggest that marine intertidal organisms are likely to exhibit complex physiological responses to future environmental drivers, with likely negative effects on growth, population dynamics, and, ultimately, ecosystem processes.

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